Join me in learning DBT Skills!

When I get right down to it, if I had not of learned Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills I would not have my son. I feared that if I did not get my emotions under control I would not be able to properly cope with the trials of parenthood and not give my child the best version of myself. Before DBT, I felt stuck and worried that I would never have the family I knew I deserved.

Very quickly, I saw that the DBT skills were changing me. Emotion regulation skills taught me about my emotions (to listen to them, not hate them) and how I can influence them. Interpersonal effectiveness skills taught me how to better communicate my needs and that I am not responsible for people’s responses. Distress tolerance skills taught me how to cope in times of stress and how meeting my physical needs helps tolerate emotional distress. Mindfulness skills taught me how to slow down and notice the moment so I do not become overwhelmed in this fast paced world.

Maybe you can relate to my experience. Maybe your emotions and ability to cope with them are holding you back from having a life worth living. I would like to encourage you to consider joining me in learning DBT. I work for an organization, based out of Toronto, Ontario called Dialectical Living. We have spots currently open for our 2017 DBT skills classes. The great thing about our classes is that you do not have to live in Toronto to attend! In February 2017 we are launching our Intro to DBT course ONLINE! Learn DBT with me and my co-facilitator wherever you are in the world!

In the Intro to DBT course you will learn all of the core DBT skills over a 12 week period. The course is cost-effective and one of the most affordable DBT courses out there. It is very important to myself and the staff at Dialectical Living that we are as affordable as possible so everyone who needs DBT can access it.

To learn more about our courses please visit our website: http://www.dialecticalliving.ca/online-skills-group/

 

Dear Emotional Me

This post was inspired by a youth in my peer support group who wrote a letter to her future self to read during the tough times. I’m going to put this letter in my Distress Tolerance Box.

Hey Kristen,

I have a feeling that right now your body is vibrating like a bomb about to go off. You’re possibly crying, if not sobbing, thinking every horrible thought possible in a few short seconds. You’re probably feeling EVERYTHING, because that’s what you do, you feel too much and it quickly becomes too much. You probably yelled and said something you regret because you are still learning how to express what you need. Everything you might have done, don’t worry about it. You are perfect given what you have gone through. I’m sorry this moment is hard for you. Give yourself a hug. You are safe right now. The bad people are gone, only the good people are left and you are still here. That’s pretty awesome.

Give yourself credit for making it to your Distress Tolerance Box. It’s very Wise of you to notice that you needed something from the box to support you in calming down. Awareness is half the battle and you know you have a ton of awareness. A therapist hasn’t told you anything new about yourself in about 5 years. It’s because you know yourself. You know that the moments will hurt so fucking bad which can be so overwhelming AND you also know, most importantly, that the moments will stop hurting and that you will return to your baseline and move on. You know that you will learn something new from each experience and apply it to your life. You know that you emerge from each breakdown, stronger and with more motivation to become a better person and have a life worth living. You know all of this. These are the facts.

You may feel like self-harming. You know that is no longer an option for you and that is fantastic! That behaviour serves no purpose now and you know so much that you can’t go back. Keep going down the path that leads you to reclaiming your body.  Just like this moment, the urge will pass. Just keep surfing that urge. Seriously, imagine that you are surfing in a  beautiful, hot place. Hang out there for a bit!

I bet that at this point you’re feeling better, your mind has cleared and the emotions have gone down. If it has, that’s great! If not, that’s completely fine! Go through the other tools in your box (you know you love your silver, glittery silly putty) or go get a hug, or maybe text a friend and share with them something you like about them (giving to others can help you). You have learned so many skills. Use them (go look at your binder if you need to).

You are amazing, you do good things and you will make it through this moment.

Love,

Kristen

 

DBT Skills: Distress Tolerance Box

A few years ago I created a Self-Harm Safety Box that generally went unused and unappreciated. Last week’s DBT class asked that, for home practice, we create a Distress Tolerance Box. Today, I did just that!

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The objects I chose help with mindfulness and/or address self-soothing with the 5 senses.

What’s inside?

Shea Butter lip balm

Anti-stress Eucalyptus Spearmint hand lotion

The Affirmations Colouring Book + pencil crayons

Affirmations from a friend

Silver glitter silly putty

Love notebook with notes from myself

The Happy Book

Wreck this Journal

Word Search book

Nail polish

War Heads candy

Embroidery floss (make bracelets/keychains)

Apple Cinnamon candle

Snowflake building blocks

Motherhood & Madness: Getting Pregnant and Emotion Dysregulation

Motherhood&Madness

I know that each body is different. I know there are many factors that affect fertility from month to month, day to day, but when I do my best to follow the “rules” and B and I are still not pregnant it is very difficult to not let the sadness consume me.

When we first decided to  try and become pregnant I was concerned about how I would handle the potential mood swings and body changes that come with pregnancy, due to my emotion regulation issues. Now, I am seeing that I need to plan for finding out that we are not pregnant and the emotions that come along with it. I’m sure many couples who try to have children feel similar feelings, but I cannot doubt that my issues with emotion regulation may make certain feelings exaggerated and  more painful.

When I see people on my Facebook post sonogram pictures announcing their pregnancy I can’t help but think, “What is wrong with me? Why aren’t I pregnant yet?” It feels even worse when people share with me that they got pregnant “right away”. The first month they tried (or even that one time oops) they became pregnant. When people hear my age and tell me that I’m young enough for pregnancy to happen quickly I feel upset because it’s not happening quickly (although, what does “quickly” really mean?).

I feel defeated, defective, broken, sad, scared and like a failure. These feelings make me want to stop trying and give up on becoming a parent. This is my Emotion Mind.

I was so stressed last month that I experienced insomnia and crashed from sadness when my period (which was 2 days late, that little bugger!) arrived. I realized, with the help of some supportive people, that I needed to calm down and use my Wise Mind. My Wise Mind will help me remain calm and cope with the disappointment of yet another month of nothing.

What does my Wise Mind tell me in this situation?

We will become pregnant eventually.

If we do not become pregnant within the year we can take the necessary steps to check fertility and go from there.

We should enjoy being together and loving each other no matter what.

Not being pregnant does not mean there is something wrong with either of our bodies.

If there is something not right in one or both of our bodies that it does not reflect poorly on us as people.

This month, I have used my Wise Mind more and have tried to enjoy my relationship more instead of being single-minded and just focusing on becoming pregnant. I have physically and emotionally felt better. Of course, I still have the odd upsetting thought and feeling but then I just remind myself that things are and will be ok.

 

DBT Skills: Opposite Action

In DBT class we discussed opposite action. When we feel an emotion an action comes with it. For some of us that action is destructive and acting on it reinforces a negative behaviour. For example, whenever I used to get angry I would scream and yell. When I began to use opposite action, instead of yelling I speak calmly but with a firm tone. It is the opposite of what the emotion wants me to do, but I have made a Wise Mind decision to behave in the opposite. This supports my brain in strengthening the pathways that support positive coping.

Today I found out something I wish I hadn’t (it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not what I wanted). I began to mope on the couch, my body feeling slow and heavy and smiling felt like too much effort. I cried a little and got some love from B before he left for work. I had the urge to sit on the couch all day, listening to sad music, watching lame tv and just give into the horrible feeling. I knew though that this was not an option! I decided to use opposite action! I got off the couch, did my hair and makeup, ran Do what is right, do what is good.: an errand and got myself my favourite cold drink at Starbucks.

I started feeling better the moment I left that house and I haven’t gone back down the road of sadness since. If I did though I will show myself compassion because I am allowed to feel upset, I just can’t let it ruin my day and my life.

Opposite action is up there on My Favourite DBT Skills list. I think many of you may already use this skill you just don’t have a name for it.

DBT Skills: Your Imagination Can Achieve Goals

This week in my DBTPath class we discussed a group of skills that can positively support us in achieving our goals. One of these skills was using our imagination. I greatly enjoy using my imagination so this skill spoke to me. I had recently been challenged by a colleague (who is providing me and others with public speaking training) to begin to imagine myself doing the things I want to do which can prepare the brain to do just that. Because of him I was already beginning to use my imagination for personal change so I am glad that it is used within DBT as well!

When I say imagination in this context I do not mean creating a fantasy. What I mean is using your imagination to create a possible reality that you can achieve. Imagine yourself succeeding at your goal! When I use this skill I ask myself these questions to create the scene:

  • What steps will I take to succeed at my goal?
  • What will I say?
  • How will I feel?
  • How will I cope with potential roadblocks?

Let me provide you with an example. When I am finishing up work I always say to myself, “B will not be home and I will be there alone.” What I have tried to start to do is imagine myself coping effectively if he is not home. This is my narrative (written in present tense).

I call B and ask him what he is up to. He tells me that he is out with a friend and will be home later. I ask him when later and he tells me a time. I get off the phone and take a deep breathe and calm myself. I get on the bus to the subway. On the bus and subway ride I read my book. I feel excited reading about what happens to the characters. I walk to my apartment and call my Mom. I chat with her about her day and my day but not about B being out. I feel happy. When I get to my apartment I say goodbye to my Mom. I step inside and see that the apartment is empty and I take a deep breath. I feel calm. I begin to make myself dinner, something I really enjoy eating. I feel satisfied. I put on Netflix and watch a new show or documentary. I watch Netflix while I blog, go on Facebook and do other internet things. I feel productive. I do this until I feel myself becoming tired. I go into my bedroom and call B to say goodnight. I ask him to keep me posted about when he is coming home. He says yes. This makes me feel respected and calm. I read a bit before I turn off the light and begin deep breathing to help me fall asleep. I feel relaxed. B comes home, we cuddle in bed and fall asleep. I feel loved.

Now, that I have a game plan of what success looks like I can do it myself! I am finding the above narrative effective. I may still feel anxiety at the fact that B is out, but I still go through the motions of keeping myself occupied. It gets easier each time and I am very proud of myself for achieving this goal. 🙂

Be Prepared! Or Else…

over

I have said the above before. Here is something I wrote about a week ago when I was having a depressive episode which I will define as me sitting in the dark, alone, sobbing and writing.

“What’s interesting is that being hyperaware of repeating the things I am afraid of doesn’t even protect me from repeating it. I resign myself to it, expect it to happen and tell myself that this is what I deserve.”

I analyze every situation to see if it is one I have been through before. If I decide that it is, or similar, or just plain threatening then I need to prepare myself for the worst. The problem is, is that I most likely create “the worst” and if “the worst” is happening I just accept it. It’s a very strange feeling to want to prepare and protect myself from something I will allow to happen. I guess, if I’m going something bad is going to happen I’m at least going to acknowledge that it is in my life.

Skills I could use? Coping ahead would be a good one. It’s better for me to positively plan ahead what I will do in certain situations than react impulsively in the moment.

Just some quick thoughts for the day. I will hopefully have internet by Monday and won’t have to go other places to use wifi.